I'm leaving my final class for the day when my phone vibrates. Mikaela texts me about once a week at least, so I figure it's probably her. We haven't talked much since we got back from our Gatlinburg road trip. However, I'm surprised to see Rykel's name pop up on the screen. He hasn't contacted me since our first date four nights ago; I texted him the next morning just to say hi but I wasn't sure if I should try again since he never responded.
Meet me at five. Coffee shop. Wear something nice, sweetheart. - Rykel
I bite my lip as a smile tugs at my cheeks. I check the time - 4:15. I have forty-five minutes to get ready. Maybe my roommate will let me borrow that top she wore last night. It's the perfect color for me and we're the same size.
* * *
I'm sitting at a table in front of the coffee shop at five after, wearing my roommate's green ruffled blouse and my new tapered denim capris with my trusty brown flip-flips. This time, I come prepared; I spend the twenty minutes I'm waiting reading on my Kindle. When I hear the engines of Rykel's motorcycle pull up, I slide the ereader into my purse and stand up.
Rykel pulls off his helmet and flips his head to toss his scraggly blond hair out of his screaming blue eyes. He saunters up to me, tugging on one piercing-riddled ear. Today he's wearing a blue shirt with the sleeves torn off and jeans. "Ready, doll?"
I smile and take the helmet he offers me, sliding it on. "What's the plan today?"
He climbs back on to the seat and gives me a hand up, but he doesn't start the engines yet. "I'm thinking we'll get a bite to eat and then it's up to you. Anyplace you've been wanting to go lately?"
I wrap my arms around his waist and lay my head against his neck, breathing in his scent. There's no movies out that I've been interested in this month. The roller skating place is only open on the weekends during the school year. I can't really think of anything else... except... "How do you feel about shopping?"
He laughs and turns to look at me from the side. "What do you have in mind?"
I grin. "Well, there's this new store that just opened in the mall. It's kind of my favorite and there's never been one in this area before. Their grand opening was last week."
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to stop by." He revs up the engines and whips out of the parking lot onto the road. I lean back a little and enjoy the thrill of the wind speeding past me.
A few minutes later, Rykel pulls into the parking lot of a tiny restaurant with an odd name. I've never been here before. I slide off the seat behind him and hand him the helmet, looking through the windows. "Where are we?"
He sets the helmet on the handlebars and slides his hand into mine. "It's a vegetarian joint. I know the owner. Thought you might like to try it."
I shrug and walk through the door he holds open for me with his free hand. "I'll try anything once."
Rykel knows exactly what he wants - this huge meal that reminds me of a veggie burger - but I take a while to figure out my order. Days like these I wish I weren't so picky. There's way too many foods I wish I liked, but I can't stand. Finally I settle on a tofu meal of some sort. It looks like scrambled eggs, and I've always wanted to try tofu. Why not?
I choose a table and grab straws and napkins. Rykel carries over our tray once the food's ready. I take my plate and set it down in front of me. I sit and look at it for a minute, just playing with my fork.
Rykel laughs. "Come on, babe. Just try it!"
I smile and shrug. "Okay, here goes." I dig my fork into the pile on my plate and, with a glass of water at the ready, take a bite.
Rykel watches me, his signature grin in place. "So?"
I swallow and smile. "Actually, it just tastes like... eggs."
He laughs. "Not bad, huh?"
I giggle. We finish our meal relatively quickly, both focused on the food rather than conversation. After dumping our trash, we step outside. Rykel climbs onto his motorcycle.
"The big mall over by the old theater, right?"
I nod and slide onto seat behind him, clicking my helmet in place. "Yep. I just want to take a look around. Hopefully it won't take too long."
"Alright. I can't promise I'll be interested, but we can go." He revs up the engine, I slide my arms around him, and we're off.
The store, Charming Charlie, is one of a chain of accessory stores - mostly jewelry, but they carry purses, scarves, shoes, and some clothing, too. I know Rykel probably won't like it, but I'm sure we can find another store in the mall to stop in for him if he wants. I hope he's not as anti-shopping as guys tend to be. I just really love Charming Charlie, and I haven't been there since I visited the one where my family lives back in Easter.
We find a parking spot and enter the mall hand-in-hand. I spot the shiny black letters almost immediately and point them out. "There!" I try very hard not to squeal. I might be dragging Rykel behind me at this point, to be honest. We enter the store and I stop to gaze around, take it all in. The sparkling, shiny wares in the various color-sorted sections whisper to me. Buy me! Buy me! "Oh, I love this place!"
I turn and look at Rykel.
"Is there anything here without ruffles?"
I laugh. The phrase 'fish out of water' comes to mind. "I know. You hate it. I'll only be a minute. Then we can go to another store or somewhere else. Whatever you want, I promise. Okay?"
He nods. "Okay, whatever." Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he shuffles his feet over so he's out of the sight of any shoppers out in the main hallway and leans against a mirror on the wall between two necklace displays. "Just don't be long."
"I won't!" I take off to my favorite section, the blue. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings.... oh, I love them all! This is cute. That's sooo pretty. I love that. Hm. I guess I could see someone else wearing that one, but it's not for me. Oh-what is that? I am so buying this! Ew. Why would anyone buy that?
I'm sure I've already stretched Rykel's patience twice by the time I finally settle on what I want to buy and head to the register. I remember our ride here on the motorcycle and ask the lady to staple the bag closed. A few minutes later, two paper-wrapped bracelets lie in the bottom of my paper shopping bag, and I find Rykel slouching on a bench outside the store.
"Sorry." I offer a sheepish look of penitence and hold up my bag. "I know that took a while. I'm done now. What do you want to do?"
He stands up and shrugs. "That place looks like that My Little Pony show on steroids. "
I laugh. "I won't make you come again. What's next?"
"Why don't we just go for a drive?"
He smiles and takes my hand. We take our time leaving the mall. Rykel stops just outside the building. He pulls a small box, about the size of a deck of cards, out of his pocket. "Mind if I take a smoke before we set off?"
I stare at the box of cigarettes. "Smoke?"
He nods. "Yeah, I smoke. Sorry, did I never mention that?"
I swallow, not sure how to react. "Um. Guess not."
"We're not allowed to at Polytech, and I don't get out often. The rules and all that. I haven't had a smoke in a solid month, at least. So... do you mind waiting?"
He nods and lights up a cigarette as I walk over to the motorcycle and sit down on it. I watch him, wondering what else I don't know about this guy. The list of what I do know is shockingly short when I think about it.
Emily, you are in sooo over your head.